They hold hands. Affection and appreciation apparent in the manner and the touch. A familiarity is evidence of a long relationship; their aged faces showing two lifetimes of challenges, faced shoulder-to-shoulder. Talking softly, he grips a valise tightly in his other hand, and she, listening to his words, never takes her eyes off of the case. They are plainly dressed, but smartly. Ironed creases in the right places. I cannot hear their words, but the substance is palpable in their eyes: something very important is happening today.
We ride for a few stops and an unusually dressed young man climbs aboard, and I see them tense, as if deciding to flee or fight. The newcomer is in silk, every color imaginable, it seems. His suit, shirt, and even shoes seem to shimmer as he glides to the seat across from the couple. He turns and, without kindness, smiles at them, and I shiver, instinctively. The couple look into each other’s eyes, and the gentleman hands the case to the silken man, who snatches it like a snake striking its prey. He pops it open and I catch a glimpse of a well worn, but still shiny oil lamp. Like we all remember from stories like Ali Baba. He closes the case, giggles, and dashes off the bus with the speed of a southern wind as we pull into the next stop. The couple sigh as one. With smiles and a look of resignation to their fate, they, too, exit the bus in no particular hurry.
Owning a magic lamp may seem like a good idea at the time. But the djinn are capricious and vindictive creatures and, what seemed like fine fortune at first, may become a painful lesson in being careful of what you wish for.
The box is deeply carved and appears to have been lovingly handled for centuries. The wood started as a burled dark brown, but the passage of time, and countless hands upon it, have given it a reddish patina, glowing in the light of the setting sun. The carvings are abstract; conveying a sense of power, confusion. and ancient rituals. It rests on the lap of the current owner, big enough that the large man’s arms just encircle it, tightly holding it in place. His aquiline features are weathered and ruddy. Blond hair, streaked slightly with a grey found only in storm clouds, is pulled back into a short ponytail. Beneath brows knitted together in concern, pale blue eyes watch the riders with distrust and territorial aggression as they pass by his seat.
In the bendy part of the articulated bus, there are four seats which pivot as the bus makes its way through the streets. Turning in a proscribed circle, the foursome are the maneuverable center of our massive, metal conveyance. Today, there are only two inhabitants of these seats; one to each side. Opposite to each other physically and, as I look closely, in every way imaginable.
She is petite, with sunshine in her long, blonde hair, with two tight braids encircling her head like a crown. She’s older than one would assume, with seasons in her bright eyes, and not a few lines on her face and hands. She’s dressed for the chill but for her rather dainty slipper-shoes, which sparkle in the morning light.
He is darkness. All in black from head to toe, with obsidian boots able to withstand the heart of a volcano. A black knit cap is pulled down over his eyes, and a hooded coat, in the deepest shade of midnight, completes the look. His nose, chin, and mouth, are all that are visible; with a grim set to the last, above a small, trimmed ink-black goatee.
He decides without seeing and carries the weight. She sees all and radiates hope.
Judgment and Mercy ride the 120.
Mother Nature is on sabbatical and her second cousin, Chaos, has been left in charge. While the weather goes topsy-turvy, we who are not burdened by snow and ice, continue our commute without much consternation other than a bus being packed or a stray lolly being dropped on a friend. Yes. That happened. Today, we chance upon a less crowded caravan and, through the standard stop-and-go traffic, we wend our way to wherever the 120 takes us. With a bite in the air, the heat blasts on and off, and I notice something rather remarkable. The large gent next to me, kitted out in outdoorsy work clothes, has a fragrance which I would venture to guess is not sold across the counter at the local parfumerie. He smells of the earth. Of rich soil, filled with the promise of new growth. The Avatar of Spring takes on many forms and, today, heads downtown to file an injunction against Chaos’ mishandling of winter’s end.